This foolproof Vodka All Butter Pie Crust is flakey and buttery! It is the solution to all your pie crust woes!
“A little vodka for the pie crust, a little for me…” Any excuse these days, amiright?
See baking is fun!
While the vodka doesn’t really add a flavor to the dough, it has two jobs! The first is to hinder gluten development and the second is to add moisture that will evaporate in the oven!
The additional moisture from the vodka will make this feel like a wetter dough and your first inclination might be to panic, but don’t worry it will all work out in the end! Trust me. I’ve got you.
Do not be fooled by the name, the same rules apply as my other All Butter Pie Crust. We are going to revisit them just as a refresher. Feel free to skip them if you’re already a pie crust ninja!
The 3 Cardinal Rules for Pie Crust
Keep it cold: This is the theme that runs through the whole process from the moment you scale your ingredients to the moment when you put the pie in the oven. Keep. It. COLD.
Your butter should absolutely be cold (not frozen), your water should be ice cold and your vodka should be frozen. This makes sneaking a shot easier too…?
Work Quickly: This serves two purposes: the first is to keep your ingredients cold and the second is to restrict the amount of gluten that develops in your pastry. Cut your butter in as quickly as the method will allow; keep your focus while adding your water; and when gathering the dough into one cohesive mass, only work it just until it comes together.
Bake it Hot: When you take cold pastry dough that has little pockets and sheets of cold butter, and you pop it into a screaming hot oven, the water will evaporate and the butter will melt creating flakey layers.
Gluten makes my world go round...
Let’s talk about gluten. The first 2 rules exist almost exclusively to control the amount of gluten formation. Huh? Okay, I’ll break it down for you.
Gluten is two proteins that are found in wheat that, when hydrated and agitated, form a felt-like network. They are responsible for the structure in your pie crust. You need a certain amount of gluten to create a flakey crust that won’t just crumble or fall apart after slicing. But gluten is also what makes your pastry shrink or become tough when it should be delicate.
There are several key steps in pastry making that are all about making sure only the appropriate amount of gluten forms. Gluten forms best in a warm environment, so back to the #1 rule of keeping it cold. Cutting in the butter coats some of those gluten strands so that they cannot form a tight, cohesive network.
This brings us to the second rule of pastry. You need to work quickly once you begin adding the water because gluten needs to be hydrated before it forms. The faster you work and the colder your water, the less gluten has a chance to form.
And now that you understand gluten and its integral, yet complicated, role that it plays in pastry, you can understand why I use pastry flour. Different flours have different gluten contents. How do you spot the difference?
Look at the nutritional values. The lower the protein content, the lower the gluten content. Easy peasy.
I use a pastry flour or a lower gluten All Purpose flour (like King Arthur) for my pastry doughs because it contains a relatively low amount of gluten when compared to all-purpose or bread flour. Never use bread flour. Please. Promise me that one thing. .
My recipe is by weight. Weigh your ingredients for the most consistent, best results. The different methods of measuring flour into a dry measuring cup vary by ½ cup.
A HALF a CUP!
Think of all that extra gluten in there and how you don’t have any additional butter to coat the strands! Think of how tough and elastic that pie crust will be. So sad.
Let’s not set ourselves up for failure. Weigh your ingredients. Pretty please.
Vodka All Butter Pie Crust
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, salt, sugar and butter. On low speed cut the butter into the flour until you have some larger pieces but most of the butter has worked into the flour. You will notice that the flour will change color and be slightly darker.
- Stop the mixer and pour the vodka over the top of the crust. Turn the mixer back on low and slowly pour the water over the crust. Mix on low until the flour has hydrated but a cohesive dough has not yet formed.
- Turn out onto a countertop and press gently until a dough forms. It will be a little wet, but that is ok! Divide the dough in half. Press out into disks and wrap in plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours and up to 3 days. Alternatively you can freeze it for up to 2 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator before using. Make sure to keep it cold!